I have a strawberry project going on. My earlier farming knowledge can be summed up in one sentence: “Grass is green – or at least it is supposed to be.” But, thanks to Internet I leveled up and managed to find information about strawberries. We got some strawberry things that I planted, and there seems to be at least one strawberry flower (dunno how it’s actually called) which means chances are that we might be able to eat strawberry or two at some point during this summer.
I could go on more about how I “sealed” the ground, killed weeds, got soil and stuff but since everybody else than me, myself and I would find that terribly boring I shall approach the main reason why I’m writing about this blog post.
The point is the reward. Casual games design (very simplistically put) tells you to reward the player constantly, often and all the time. That’s probably fine, but all gaming experiences are not made equal. There was challenges in my strawberry planting operation (which strawberry brand to use? Does it matter which way is up on root mat? How much water those plants need? Is strawberry plant even the right word to use in blog posting?).
I couldn’t just click stuff to gain more things to click (I’m exaggerating here, waiting for comments to arrive how “in game X you need to do a lot more”). It’s not only casual games, also hardcore games have – possibly boring – grinding stuff in them. Many games do.
Anyway, back to my strawberry land.
I managed to overcome all those challenges, and was rewarded (the “finish each sub-mission” was the reward in itself). I took healthy looking brand (I had read earlier that “there must be at least 3 healthy leaves” which I used as the guideline when picking it), flipped coin to decide on root mat, watered so that the soil would be wet, and just decided to go with the words “strawberry plant” realizing that for making a point, that word is irrelevant. And who knows, maybe I guessed right.
But these rewards didn’t happen with one mouse click. No, I actually had to schedule things (we have a 1+ year old girl in the house, and she is in charge as every parent would know), I had to actually use a shovel (and you don’t combine it by clicking wood + rock, m’kay?) and actually dig some ground (it requires bit more work than mouse clicks) and more.
Now, this might sound like I’ve ever done anything real work ever in my life. I have no comments on that, but the main reason why I find this very interesting is that this is the first time I own a piece of land that’s mine to take care of, and I own the stuff I’m planting.
When I compare 2 “farming” operations:
1) Growing strawberries in Farmville
2) Growing strawberries in our backyard
Number 2 is like infinitely more rewarding to me. There’s challenges, but that makes rewards much more sweet.
When huge number of games are going to the “everything is rewarded” direction, that gives room for totally different gaming experiences & niches. There’s people who enjoy Meat Boy – insanely difficult, insanely fun (for some).
Click + reward works for some audience, and we gotta pick our own audience.
It’s okay to do games differently.